One of Paul Haggis’ anonymous accusers has penned a column in the Hollywood Reporter, denying claims that the Church of Scientology is behind her allegations and explaining why she came forward in the way that she did.
The woman—one of three who spoke to the Associated Press after Haggis countersued rape accuser Haleigh Breest, alleging her experience lined up with their own—said that she had never intended to share the story of her almost-assault publicly, even post-Weinstein, but felt compelled when she heard Haggis was suing another accuser for defamation.
Outraged, I read the horrifying details of this woman’s story. She wasn’t as fortunate; she didn’t get away. I couldn’t let this woman battle this serial predator and bully alone. I decided to speak out.
The writer alleges that she was assaulted by Haggis at work in the late 2000s, when he told her “I need to be inside you,” before forcibly grabbing her. The AP account adds that this took place during a one-on-one pitch meeting in Haggis’ office, and when she tried to flee, Haggis pursued her. (Haggis has denied the anonymous misconduct claims).
The anti-Scientology movement has attempted to portray the writer and her fellow accusers as part of a Scientology conspiracy targeting Haggis because he is a prominent former member—and therefore “enemy”—of Scientology. In a blog post on Mike Rinder’s website, he and Scientology and the Aftermath co-host Leah Remini suggested that the “anonymous” accusations have been concocted from files the group keeps on its members:
We expect the next “revelations” about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology files in the form of more “anonymous” accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill.
In the Hollywood Reporter column, the accuser clarified why she came forward anonymously, adding that anonymity didn’t make her story any less true:
I solicited advice from every communications expert I know. Each one urged me to hide my identity. They said Haggis could sue me, just like his first rape accuser. They said my job would be affected and asked whether I wanted my name forever linked to his. They warned me that Haggis would use his powerful friends to denounce us, which is precisely what he has done.
I decided using my name would be too much. By speaking anonymously, I could help protect other women and still protect myself.
She wrote that the Scientology claims were “offensive and false,” and called out Remini for trying to silence her fellow women:
I have no connection with Scientology or its practitioners. For those people — including actress Leah Remini — who have stated publicly that all of Haggis’ accusers are part of a Scientology conspiracy, shame on you. Isn’t now the time to be listening to your sisters? Such baseless statements attempt to silence all of us and the entire #MeToo movement.
While very few men have acknowledged the harassment allegations against them are true, Haggis and his defenders have been exceptionally aggressive in painting his accusers as lying, profit-seeking, and maliciously motivated. Haggis’ behavior, added the nameless columnist, has only confirmed that remaining anonymous was the correct decision.
Many have questioned accusers’ rights to make claims anonymously, but there is no reason why women shouldn’t be allowed to protect their identities and themselves, assuming their claims are reported by journalists who have corroborated their stories—even when accusing prominent enemies of Scientology.
One more thing
You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.
Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.